Stoned - Again - In Court

May 17, 2007

Joshua Zaffos, Rocky Mountain Chronicle

Medical marijuana providers James and Lisa Masters and their lawyers enjoyed a 20-second victory in court on May 14, before a judge dismissed most of their latest round of motions. Larimer County Chief Judge James A. Hiatt ruled that a drug task-force officer illegally searched the Masters’ house, but he then refused to throw out the evidence gathered during a follow-up search.

The Masters are charged with possession and intent to distribute marijuana, stemming from a child-welfare check at their home on August 2, 2006. At the time, the couple advised county child protection staff and accompanying police that they were medical marijuana caregivers and agreed to allow them into their grow rooms. The couple was arrested. Then Det. Todd Brubaker arrived and entered the home.

The drug task force later used Brubaker’s report to gain a search warrant and confiscate the plants, which the Masters claimed as medicine for 30 patients (Read “High noon,” from the January 17 issue).
“The police cannot engage in deception, and that is what they did,” Masters’ co-counsel Rob Corry argued at the recent hearing, adding that the warrantless search was a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Pierson responded that probable cause had been established when the child-welfare staff saw the marijuana plants.

Judge Hiatt only partly agreed with the defense claim. Although the Masters “basically were tour guides” during the child-welfare check, Hiatt said, Brubaker acted illegally by searching the house without consent or a warrant. But the judge ruled that evidence gathered after the warrant was issued is still admissible during the upcoming June 4 trial, which the Masters’ lawyers are calling a precedent-setting case for Colorado medical marijuana providers and patients.

The defense attorneys say they plan to file yet another motion, because the warrant was mostly based on the evidence gathered during the illegal search.

“This is the fourth motion we’re having, so it shows you the extent to which the state will go to prosecute medical marijuana patients,” says Brian Vicente, another attorney representing the Masters.

The Masters’ lawyers also asked Judge Hiatt to drop the intent-to-distribute charges, arguing that state laws regulating marijuana distribution are “unconstitutionally vague.” Hiatt ruled against the motion, saying the matter is an issue of proof that will be decided during the trial. 

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